Average fans have noticed the preponderance of times the Timberwolves and Wild play on the same date this season. It’s happened 13 times already and will happen 33 times this year. Last year, it happened 24 times.
And if fans have noticed the scheduling quirk, you can bet Mike Dimond — Fox Sports North’s senior vice president and general manager — has as well. With FSN carrying 75 Timberwolves games and 70 Wild games this season, the overlap has led to extended use of the FSN Plus channel, while other nights are devoid of live programming.
The numbers indicate it’s not negatively impacting FSN’s bottom line, but it does make for some busy nights for employees and viewers while also leading to a balancing act for FSN as it tries to keep both major sports organizations happy.
On nights when both teams play and FSN is carrying both games, one team is on the regular FSN channel while the other goes to FSN Plus. There are 12 such instances this year, and Dimond said it’s an even split — the Wild and Wolves are both on FSN Plus six times.
Tuesday was one of those occasions; the Wolves’ lopsided loss to Denver was on FSN, while the Wild’s blowout victory over Vancouver was on FSN Plus.
“There’s not a ton” of impact on ratings for teams on the Plus channel, Dimond said. It helps that FSN Plus has grown in both familiarity and distribution to the point that 97 percent of households that have FSN also have FSN Plus.
In terms of overall viewers, both teams are doing relatively well. The Wolves’ TV ratings are up 42 percent over last year at this time, though that’s after a big drop the previous year. Sports Business Journal reported that the Timberwolves’ TV rating was 1.18 at the 2014-15 All-Star break, down 54 percent from the same period in 2013-14.
The Wild, which had a 4.2 rating last season on FSN in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, has seen ratings climb a little again this year, Dimond said.
Those ratings are in line with a recent Star Tribune poll that asked, “When the Wolves and Wild play on the same night, who do you watch?” Of the nearly 1,500 responses, 70 percent said the Wild, 21 percent said the Wolves and 9 percent said a 50/50 split.
“Ideally, we’d love to have a live event every night. But we’re subject to the league scheduling,” Dimond said.
“You don’t always get what you want. At some point, we’ve played the hand that was dealt us. We’re pretty busy on nights like that, especially away games. But it’s good to be busy.”